Throughout the evening, the snow had silently fallen, blanketing everything under six inches of pristine whiteness. Most people had made what my friend calls their “French toast run” – the obligatory dash for bread, milk, and eggs. When morning broke bright and clear, my urban neighborhood was uncharacteristically quiet.
I slept until the cat pawed my face for her morning meal. Once she was fed, I put the tea kettle on and sat at the dining room table to read my Bible. It wasn't long before the sounds of metal scraping concrete filled the air as people dug out.
In preparation of the storm, I’d worked late the night before, allowing me precious time off on Friday. I lingered at my laptop, checking emails, reading blogs, and staying put next to the space heater working hard to offset all the drafts in my over 90-year-old house.
A few hours later, I poked my nose outside to assess the situation. Someone had graciously shoveled my sidewalk and behind my car, but the job of removing all that white stuff from the top of it, still fell to me.
I pulled on rain boots, made a babushka out of my bright red scarf, put on my heaviest coat, and donned my leather gloves. With broom and car keys in hand, I headed outside.
While the car’s defrosters worked on the windows, I used the broom to push layers of snow from the roof, hood, and trunk. Meanwhile, the wind played with my scarf, constantly flipping it off my shoulder, and the thin rain boots and leather gloves were rendered pretty much useless in providing protective warmth.
In a mere 10 minutes my hands and feet ached from the blistering cold.
I finished up quickly, shut off the car, and scurried back inside shoving the door shut against the wind. Huddling in front of the space heater, I whimpered as my fingers and toes slowly regained feeling.
“Boy I’m glad I don’t have to be out in this!”
No sooner did the words leave my lips then I felt a pang in my heart.
There are so many homeless in the city and surrounding area in which I live - a thousand on any given day, a third of whom are children. Many stay in shelters and emergency housing, but a good number, the chronically homeless, live on the street. They lay their heads down each night under bridges, in abandoned buildings, in doorways, and the like. And even if the homeless find a warm bed for the night, most shelters don’t allow them to stay during the day. So they pack up their shopping carts, back packs, and makeshift luggage and head back to the street to survive till nightfall.
I'm so very grateful for the blessings of a roof over my head and a warm bed to sleep in, but I know gratitude is not enough, especially when my neighbors are suffering.
In Matthew 25:40, Jesus said "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"
As we find ourselves in the grip of winter, doing what we can to stay warm, I challenge you to think of those who can't find respite from the cold. Homelessness is a huge issue, but here are some of the many small ways we can make an impact “for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine.”
What you can do:
1. Provide new, clean, warm socks for your local soup kitchen or Salvation Army to distribute.
2. Have more resources? Consider donating things like long underwear, hats, gloves, blankets, scarves, or coats, even hand warmers.
3. Hygiene kits containing tissues, cough drops, hand sanitizer, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, combs, or bar soap are always needed.
Don’t have funds to donate? How about a little of your time?
4. Organize a donation drive for the items above with friends, neighbors, classmates, and co-workers
Think outside the building…
5. Take a group to places the homeless tend to gather – outside of bus or train stations is one idea – and provide hot cups of coffee or soup.
6. Several times a year, my church provides “Meals and More” - a home-cooked meal to serve at the Salvation Army drop-in center along with a gift of several pairs of warm socks or a hygiene kit for each attendee.
For more ideas on how to reach your community with practical acts of service, check out the “Adventures in Community Outreach” series at lakesidelessons.blogspot.com or drop me an email at cbcnj.org.
Do you have ideas on making a difference? I’d love to read them…leave them in the comments below!
Toni Campbell is a mother of three counting her new son-in-law! Employed as the Creative Services Director for a New Jersey radio station, she is also a voice-over artist, blogger, and director of CommunityConnections, the outreach ministry of her church. Toni has written devotions for christiandevotions.us and The Quiet Hour. Her passion is showing God’s love to others through practical acts of service. Toni can be found blogging at Lakeside Lessons, on Facebook, and Twitter.